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Harry makes first official appearance since decision to quit

Yui Mok/PA Wire

By Tony Jones and Laura Elston, PA Court Staff

The Duke of Sussex has carried out his first official public engagement since he and his wife quit as senior royals, triggering a major crisis for the monarchy.

Harry was at Buckingham Palace - the official residence of his grandmother the Queen, who has now sanctioned his decision - where he was hosting the Rugby League World Cup 2021 draw.

Dozens of photographers lined a makeshift mini rugby pitch on the manicured lawns in the palace garden, waiting for the duke to arrive.

Harry, dressed in a smart suit and tie, smiled and joked when he was welcomed by RLW2021 chief executive Jon Dutton and non-executive director Stuart Cain.

Children from a local school gave a rugby demonstration as the duke chatted enthusiastically to the executives.

Royal aides are working around the clock to find solutions to the crisis caused by Harry and Meghan's plans to step back as senior royals, become financially independent and split their time between the UK and Canada.

The duke chatted to the youngsters from St Vincent de Paul Catholic Primary School in Westminster during a pause in their exhibition match, shaking each of their hands in turn.

He then posed for a group photograph in front of the large crowd of photographers, camera operators and journalists.

One of the reporters shouted out: "How are the discussions going on your future?"

Harry, who was making his way into the palace, just smiled at a member of his entourage and did not reply.

The duke is staying in the UK into next week, taking part in meetings as talks continue on his future.

The Queen, who made a statement supporting Harry and Meghan but expressing her regret, has called for final decisions on the complicated arrangements to be made in the coming days.

Meghan has been staying in Canada with baby Archie, where she has carried out visits to charities in Vancouver including to Justice For Girls, which campaigns for an end to violence, poverty and racism for teenagers.

Harry was also introduced to two ambassadors for the global tournament - England and Leeds Rhino wheelchair rugby league star James Simpson, and Jodie Cunningham, who plays in the Women's Super League for St Helens.

The schoolchildren have been Westminster champions in tag rugby, a non-contact form of the game, for the last three years.

Mr Simpson made Harry laugh when he said: "Wwe started without you."

The global tournament being staged by the UK is the pinnacle event for rugby league and will take place during October and November in 17 cities across England.

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